Comparison of Environmental Impacts of Flooring Alternatives

Lead Author: Dr. Jim Bowyer

Publish date: 01.14.2019

Dovetail Partners Consuming Responsibly Report No. 4 
 

Executive Summary

Homeowners, commercial building owners, designers, and builders have many floor covering options from which to choose. Some flooring products trigger vastly greater environmental impacts than others. No flooring alternative outperforms all others in every impact category. However, systematic assessment of a wide range of impact categories shows plant-based flooring products such as wood and cork to be those generally associated with the lowest impacts, and carpeting and marble floor tiles triggering the greatest impacts. Though a natural material, wool, when used as a floor covering material, has by far the greatest environmental impact of any flooring alternative, including all other types of carpeting material.

 

For those interested in minimizing the environmental impacts associated with their choice of flooring material, finding reliable information can be daunting. As a one-stop source of life cycle assessment based information about flooring options, the Building for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (BEES) program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the most comprehensive resource available today.